It was another ugly game for the Red Sox, who have now seen subpar outings from each of their top two starters in each of the last two games. That’s not great! This time, Chris Sale showed that he was still able to strike batters out, but that’s clearly not enough. His command was off by just enough that the Blue Jays were all over him and took him deep four times. That is, of course, a season-high for him and just the second time he’s ever allowed that many long balls in a game over his career. The Red Sox would be well-served to get him some rest before the postseason begins. Meanwhile, the offense didn’t really inspire much confidence in this game, either. They were completely shut down for the vast majority of this game with a lineup that has been hurt by injuries over the last few days.
Sale certainly showed off some strong stuff in the first inning, but it was also clear that it was going to be a different kind of night for the lefty. Or, at least, it wasn’t going to be one of his completely dominant nights. He wasn’t bad per se, but his control and command was a bit off and that alone is enough to turn a dominant start into just an okay one. The good news is that Sale struck out three batters in that first inning of work. The bad news is he also allowed a walk and a home run. The home run came against Josh Donaldson, a man who is single-handedly trying to make Boston’s quest for the division title as painful as possible. The good news is that the dinger came with no one on base so Sale got out of the first with just a 1-0 deficit.
The second inning was fairly similar to the first for Sale, minus the home run. He had some sick strikeout stuff in a couple of the at bats, racking up two more Ks to give him five through the first two innings. However, he also gave up a solid single and a second walk. Any time Sale has two walks in two innings, you know something is at least slightly off.
Unfortunately, the third inning wouldn’t be a clean one either and that’s because that pesky Donaldson dude showed up again. This time, he led off the inning but the result was the same. He got a fastball up and on the outer half of the plate and he smacked it into the bullpens for his second solo homer of the day. Sale would once again get two more strikeouts in the inning, but also gave up that run and another solid single.
After a fourth that would be his one quick inning of the night — though one that also included a hit batsman — he came back out for the fifth and couldn’t build upon that. We’ve seen it before, when Sale is able to finally get a quick inning and roll from there, but it wasn’t in the cards on Tuesday. Instead, he gave up another leadoff homer, this time to Teoscar Hernandez. Then, after a couple of quick outs, he couldn’t end the inning but instead gave up a double to Jose Bautista. It’s worth noting that Andrew Benintendi could have thrown Bautista out at second with an accurate toss, but it was still hard contact when Sale needed to avoid that. That brought up Kendrys Morales, and he hit the home run that seemed to break the camel’s back. The score was a manageable 3-1 when he stepped into the box, but when Sale hung a slider Morales hit it just over the top of the Monster and broke the score out to 5-1. It wasn’t an insurmountable lead, but it was a costly home run for Sale, and the fourth he’d allow.
In the end, this was certainly a concerning outing for the Red Sox ace. The good news is that the strikeout stuff was still there, but the command was clearly off. Home runs have been a bit of a problem for him of late, and Boston needs to do everything in its power to get him a little extra rest heading into October.
To make matters in this game even worse, the Red Sox offense couldn’t get anything going. With injuries to some key performers — and Sandy Leon behind the plate for the Sale start — the offense was in a rough position before they even got their first at bat. Still, the lack of activity from this group was tough to watch.
Things actually got off to a strong start against J.A. Happ, with the Red Sox getting an early run on the board after going down 1-0 in the top half of the first. Xander Bogaerts led things off with a single and Chris Young — a guy who desperately needed a big game — followed it up with a double off the Monster to knock in the tying run. From there, it was downhill for just about the rest of the day. The Red Sox failed to move Young beyond second base and left that inning with the same 1-1 score.
In fact, after that double Happ retired the next 16 batters he’d face. That’s....not great. The Red Sox got their next baserunner in the sixth inning when Bogaerts hit a one-out single that was followed up by another single from Young to put two on. Of course, the Red Sox would once again fail to do much of anything with their chance getting two more quick outs to end the inning.
After Sale left it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to hold on to and hope the offense could come back once again. It wasn’t in the cards this time around as it has been so many times this month. It started off well enough with Matt Barnes tossing a scoreless inning and then Joe Kelly coming out for a 1-2-3 seventh. Then, Kelly came back out for the eighth and it went down hill. He’d allow one run before leaving two more runners on for Heath Hembree, who promptly allowed a three-run homer to really put this game out of reach. Hector Velazquez got the ninth and handled a 1-2-3 inning.
After the game already got to 9-1, the Red Sox offense showed some signs of life in the eighth. They started scoring again with a Sandy Leon home run, and then a Chris Young triple, a Rajai Davis double and a Hanley Ramirez single plated two more to bring the score to 9-4.
So, the Red Sox once again failed to push the magic number down by anything in this game thanks to their loss and it’s not looking good for the Yankees doing their part as they currently lead the Rays 6-1 in the eighth. Boston still has the inside track for the division, of course, and just need to avoid a massive collapse to hold on. Two bad games won’t change the confidence I have in them winning, though it’s not great to see Sale and Pomeranz struggle on back-to-back days. They’ll look to get back on the right track Wednesday night with Rick Porcello on the mound.